June 30, 2008
A Life Lost Too Soon Brings Hope of a Life Extended for One Man
By Glen Eller, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
Jun. 30--BY GLEN ELLER
Evelyn Lienhard never thought she would celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband James.
The Lienhards had been married for nearly 34 years when they found out that James' heart was failing. He was suffering from cardiomyopathy. His heart muscle was dying. He needed another heart.
On April 15, 1992, a date the couple will always remember, they received the most precious gift -- a second chance. The gift would not only allow the Lienhards to celebrate their golden anniversary, but also allow Jim the opportunity to witness the birth of eight more grandchildren.
Jim was the recipient of a heart transplant.
The donor was Robert Lee Treanor Jr, 19 of Stroud. His parents made the impossibly difficult decision to donate their son's organs, after his untimely death. Jim received his heart.
Evelyn had to express her complete and total gratitude to the donor's family for what she considers a life-saving miracle. The donor family wished to remain anonymous. Every year on April 15, Evelyn would write a letter to the donor family. Her letters were forwarded by the heart transplant team.
After several years, she received a response from the young man's mother telling about her son. The letter was not addressed to Evelyn, but rather to the heart institute.
In the letter, the mother described her son as a wonderful Christian man who always carried a Bible in his truck and never did drugs or alcohol.
"She wanted us to know he was a true Christian, willing to give his organs to help save someone else if something should ever happen to him," Evelyn said.
About ten years ago, unexpectedly, the Lienhards received a call from the Baptist Medical Center, telling them the donor's parents wanted to meet them.
Arrangements were made to meet in the cafeteria of the hospital.
Evelyn, describes Jim as, "not much of a hugger," but when the parents came toward us -- it was like a magnet. Jim eagerly embraced both of them. We all hugged and cried.
"There never was so much hugging and crying in all of our lives," Evelyn said.
The couples forged a close relationship.
"We are overwhelmed. We hated to lose our son, but we are glad someone so nice got his heart," said Robert Treanor Sr. and his wife Shirley. "He would have been really proud too."
The Lienhards were invited to their daughter's wedding about four years ago in Oklahoma City.
"Jim was there, so their sons heart could be there," Evelyn said.
"Whenever the young man's mother comes up to Jim, she puts her hand on Jim's chest. That is really special."
Jim takes a large amount of medicine to keep his body from rejecting the heart. Some transplant recipients have a difficult time with the amount of medicine.
"So far the medicine has agreed with Jim," Evelyn said. "It means a lot to the donor family to see Jim doing so good."
Jim watches his medicine, eats healthy and exercises regularly.
Jim's heart transplant was performed by Dr. Nazih Zuhdi of the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at Integris Baptist Medical Center.
"We never dared to dream of a 50th wedding anniversary. This means so much to us and we wanted to celebrate this time. It has a special meaning to us, our family and our extended family."
Contact Glen Eller at [email protected]
How to help
You can sign up several places to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. When you go to a tag agent or the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to get your driver's license or state ID card, you have the option to sign up. You also have the option to sign up at www.lifeshareregistry.org or can call 800-826-LIFE for information to be mailed to you.
To see more of the McAlester News-Capital or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.mcalesternews.com/.
Copyright (c) 2008, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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